, , , , , , ,

(The previous entry in this series is found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/translation-and-notes-plutarchs-marriage-advice-the-modesty-of-a-wife/)

Section 11:

When two notes sound in harmony, the base carries the tone.  Even so, in every well managed home, there is harmony between the husband and wife – which shows the government and decision of the husband.



This continues a common theme of Plutarch’s work: there is harmony in the home when wife lives harmoniously with the husband management. She is not utterly discounted; yet, she is plainly not in charge.

The argument rests, essentially, upon an analogy to nature. When two notes sound in harmony, one must carry the tone. If a household will have harmony, one party must be ultimately in charge.


Greek Text and Translation Commentary:

ὥσπερ ἂν φθόγγοι δύο σύμφωνοι ληφθῶσι, τοῦ βαρυτέρου γίγνεται τὸ μέλος, οὕτω πᾶσα πρᾶξις ἐν οἰκίᾳ σωφρονούσῃ πράττεται μὲν ὑπʼ ἀμφοτέρων ὁμονοούντων, ἐπιφαίνει δὲ τὴν τοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἡγεμονίαν καὶ προαίρεσιν.


ὥσπερ ἂν φθόγγοι δύο σύμφωνοι ληφθῶσι

Just as should two tone be sounded together

ὥσπερ ἂν: Just as if/Should. The “standard” participle would ei + an=ean. Here an “an” is used with hosper. “ὥσπερ ἂν εἰ: introduces frequently, as an illustration of a general principle, a supposed case similar to it” (Gonzalez Lodge, Commentary on Plato Gorgias (Medford, MA: Ginn & Company, 1891), 52)[1].

Φθόγγοs: this merely means a distinct sound. Since we have a musical reference, it is translated “tone”.

Σύμφωνοι: adverb: harmonious

ληφθῶσι: aorist, passive, subjunctive lambano: to take hold of something; to somehow get something into possession. Thus, to should two harmonious tones happen to be together …..

τοῦ βαρυτέρου γίγνεται τὸ μέλος,

The base carries the tone.

Γίγνεται: middle or passive: is, it comes to pass, it is produced, it happens, it becomes

τὸ μέλος: “The member” (of the body). Here is the outstanding aspect. The article with “base note” distinguishes the base from the higher note. Here the article distinguishes the note in the harmony.

ὥσπερ ἂν φθόγγοι δύο σύμφωνοι ληφθῶσι, τοῦ βαρυτέρου γίγνεται τὸ μέλος

The whole is a fifth class conditional:  (e)an + subjunctive/ present indicative in the apodosis:  “For the most part this condition is a simple condition; that ,s the speak gives no indication about the likelihood of its fulfillment. His presentation is neutral, ‘If A then B’” (Wallace, 697).

οὕτω πᾶσα πρᾶξις ἐν οἰκίᾳ σωφρονούσῃ πράττεται

Thus everything in a home managed sensibly


οὕτω πᾶσα πρᾶξις: Thus every/each action/practice/event

ἐν οἰκίᾳ: in a house/home/household

σωφρονούσῃ πράττεται: the participle modifies the finite noun: practices. The participle describes the manner in which the home conducts itself: It is a well-managed home.

μὲν ὑπʼ ἀμφοτέρων ὁμονοούντων

On one hand, this by means of both being of one mind

Men: Signals a future contrast

Hypo + genitive: agency.

ὁμονοούντων: genitive participle


ἐπιφαίνει δὲ τὴν τοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἡγεμονίαν καὶ προαίρεσιν

Yet, it shows/manifests the rule and decision of the husband

ἐπιφαίνει δὲ: The contrast foretold by the men: Yet it appears


            τοῦ ἀνδρὸς

                        ἡγεμονίαν καὶ προαίρεσιν

The article governs both nouns at the end of the clause: government and choice.  This is an example of Sharp’s Rule: a single article governing multiple nouns in the same case connected by a kai. Thus, both nouns refer to the same person (the husband, in this instance). (For a discussion of Sharp’s Rule, see, Wallace, 270, et seq.)

The genitive, of the husband, designates the possessor of the authority and choice.


κἂν εἴ τισ…ποιήσειε] The process by which ἄν in this and similar forms of expression—ὡς ἂν ειʼ, ὥσπερ ἂν ειʼ, καθάπερ ἂν ειʼ, οἱόνπερ ἂν εἰ, and the like—has lost its force, become inactive, (consopitum, ‘gone to sleep’, Buttm.,) in the sentence, is explained by Buttmann in his note on Dem. Mid. § 15, p. 530. The conditional ἄν belongs to some verb in the apodosis, originally expressed, afterwards left to be understood, as in the clause before us. The expression at full length would be, κἂν, εἴ τις ποιήσειε, ποιήσειε, ‘as one would do, if he were to do’. Still, though the particle has lost its direct and active force in this sentence, some latent notion of conditionality always remains, even when the verb which ἂν supposes cannot actually be supplied. This is the case in such phrases as φοβούμενος ὥσπερ ἂν ειʼ παῖς, Pl. Gorg. 479 A ‘fearing as a child would’: Ar. parva naturalia περὶ μαντικῆς I 2, 2 ὅσων ὥσπερ ἂν ειʼ λάλος ἡ φύσις ἐστιν, ‘whose natural habit is, as it might be (ἄν), talkative’; de Anima I 5, 5, 409 b 27, ὥσπερ ἂν ειʼ τὴν ψυχὴν τὰ πράγματα τιθέντες. In such cases the ἄν is retained by habit and association, when the sense no longer requires it. The phrase accordingly is not found in the earlier forms of the language, and does not become common till the time of Plato and Aristotle, with whom, the latter especially, it is very frequent. The association required time before it was established as a fixed habit. I believe that it does not occur in Thucydides, and that it makes its first appearance in Xenophon; that is, in the forms above given; for as an unnecessary appendage to a participle, or in cases analogous, ἄν is thus used by earlier writers. See Hermann on Soph. Phil. 491, and Jelf, Gr. Gr. § 430, I, for some instances [Kühner’s Ausführliche Grammatik § 398 p. 209 sq. S.].

Aristotle seems to be the earliest writer who assumed the license of joining κἂν εἰ with the subjunctive mood, as in Pol. II 1 init. κἂν ειʼ τυγχάνωσιν, c. 2, ὥσπερ ἂν ειʼ σταθμῆς πλεῖον ἑλκύσῃ, and III 8 κἂν ειʼ συμβαίνῃ, also Poet. I 5, κἂν εἴ τινες ἕτεραι τυγχάνωσιν. Κἂν ειʼ μή τῳ δοκῇ is the MSS reading in Plat. Rep. IX 579 D, and defended by Schneider (not. ad loc.); but rejected by Ast, Bek., Stallb. and the Zurich Editors who substitute δοκεῖ. I subjoin a few examples of the usage in its various forms. Soph. Aj. 1078 δοκεῖν πεσεῖν ἂν κἂν (it might be even) ἀπὸ σμικροῦ κακοῦ. Xenophon, Symp. II 20, IX 4, Cyrop. I 3, 1, Memor. III 6, 4 and 10, 12. Plato, Apol. 23 B, Phaed. 72 C, 109 C, and elsewhere, Men. 97 B, Gorg. 479 A, Rep. VI 493 A, Isocr. Paneg. §§ 69, 148, Aristotle in addition to those already quoted, Rhet. II 20, 4, ὥσπερ ἂν εἴ τις, Eth. N. v 7, 1132, II. Ib. V 12, 1137, 2; VI 13 sub. fin., 1145, 2 and 10; VII 8, 1150, 16, κἂν ειʼ ῥέπουσι, Pol. III 6 (sub init.) κἂν ειʼ πλείους, and several more: Hist. Anim. IV 2, 16, IV 11, 11, VIII 2, 10, de part. Anim. IV 5, 26, de Gen. Anim. III 9, 7. In Aristotle it has become habitual. The analogous use of ἂν with the participle is exemplified by Pol. II 2, 1261 b 4 ὥσπερ ἂν ἄλλοι γενόμενοι; and Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. I 5, 1, ὡς ἄν καθόλου λέγοντας, and I 6, 6, ὡς ἂν κατὰ λόγον, where ἄν may be considered as redundant. [Vahlen, Beiträge zu Ar. Poet. I p. 35—37; Eucken, de Ar. dicendi ratione I p. 61—64. S.]

E. M. Cope, Commentary on the Rhetoric of Aristotle, vol. 1 (Medford, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1877), 9–10.